Paul Rabil’s Premier Lacrosse League is in the second half of the league’s inaugural season. Many of the sport’s best players–including Team USA faceoff specialist and NCAA champion Trevor Baptiste–took a leap of faith in joining Rabil’s new venture, leaving the already established MLL to join the PLL. Baptiste, a 23-year-old rising star who plays for the Atlas Lacrosse Club, is the second PLL player after veteran midfielder Kyle Harrison to give Sports Illustrated an inside look at the league’s first season so far.
Hi guys! My name is Trevor Baptiste. I was born and raised in New Jersey but have lived in Colorado since I graduated from college in 2018. I attended the University of Denver where I played college lacrosse for four years including 2015 when we won the University's first-ever national championship. That title was also the first national championship won by any team west of the Mississippi which is pretty cool. Go Pios! (Pio ‘til I die-o).
I’ve played lacrosse at the pro level for just over a year now and my experience with the PLL has been nothing but spectacular. I’m often asked what I do and when I say I play professional lacrosse some people look surprised, for multiple reasons. They either didn’t know there was such a thing as professional lacrosse or they assume that is impossible for lacrosse to be a full-time job. Others just aren’t really sure what the sport is. But recently fewer people seem confused. This league has broadcast and distributed the sport to the masses and is making it mainstream. People are hearing about what this sport is and understanding that pro lacrosse is a major thing. It’s so exciting to be part of that.
We’ve visited some truly amazing cities so far during the PLL’s debut season and have showcased this sport in every time zone in the U.S. We’ve also had the opportunity to make the game accessible to the next generation of players and fans, which is something that I take a lot of pride in. I play for the Atlas and we have definitely had some highs and lows on the field, but I’m looking forward to helping us turn things around this second half of the season and take home the inaugural PLL championship. Here’s what the whirlwind last month in my life has looked like. Kyle covered the first month for Sports Illustrated already so I'll start with Week 5.
Week 5: Georgia State Stadium (Atlanta, Ga.)
At this point, we’re four games into the season. I can say the PLL has exceeded my expectations in terms of their ability to manage six teams, playing three total games at one location in one weekend. Since this is the inaugural season of the league, I think everyone initially thought it was going to be a logistical nightmare to get over 120 players that live all over the country to one city while making everyone feel comfortable. But now heading into Atlanta, it all feels figured out. All the players are used to the weekend schedule and by now there really aren’t any excuses to feeling ready to play once the opening whistle sounds.
We entered Week 5 coming off of a tough loss to the Whipsnakes. I think everyone thought we had that game. We played great for three and half quarters, but we just had a lapse at the end which cost us the game. It's hard to win in this league. Not only is the game incredibly fast (the fastest version of outdoor lacrosse I’ve ever played) but the margin of error in any game is so small, meaning if you mess something up, you know the other team is going to make you pay. Sitting at 1–3 going into Atlanta, we can all feel the pressure building to get more wins. We know we can’t get too far behind.
This game is especially big for a few reasons. We’re playing the Archers, who are 2–2 and just came off of two, one-goal losses. You can imagine the fire burning in them to get another game in the win column. The Archers are also the only team we scrimmaged at training camp. We won that scrimmage and expected them to want to get some revenge, even though scrimmages don’t count towards your record. Moreover, we need a win! We’re 1–3.
As a team, we’ve struggled to piece together four full quarters. There are always ebbs and flows in a game, but our main struggle has been either having a slow start in the first quarter or not finishing the job in the fourth. Our main focus this week was to stay at it and have each other’s back every shift. The support we showed each other really fueled us down the stretch as a team. This one was a dog fight to the very end, but we came away with a huge win.
Week 6: Audi Field (Washington, D.C.)
Back against the Whips this week. We felt like we had the last game we played against them just two weeks ago until we fell apart in the fourth quarter. This game was all about overcoming adversity.
We arrived at Audi Field in DC on a nice summer day but unfortunately, the weather didn’t last. We battled delays the whole game–going in and out of the locker room as we had to sit through lightning and thunder which, I have to say, is probably one of my least favorite things to do. I find it extremely hard to stay in it after having to sit for 30-45 minutes at a time. Everyone is battling the same elements but this time I felt like the stoppages in play came to our advantage a little. We dug ourselves in a big hole in the first quarter, it felt like it was going to turn into a very ugly game for us, but after the rain delay, we were able to battle back some.
In the end, it wasn’t enough. The Whips pulled away and won by two goals. This hit hard, not only because we knew this put a lot of pressure on us for playoffs, but also because we were headed into the mid-season break with two bye weeks and All-Star weekend. It’s never fun to be sitting away from the team for a few weeks after a loss.
Being an All-Star in the PLL was something that I was extremely honored about. I think being a faceoff guy you’re constantly faced with the question: Am I a player or am I just a just faceoff specialist? My answer is always that I am a player, but I feel like players in this position have to continuously prove that more than other guys. What was really special to me was being voted as captain of an All-Star team. I felt like other people and fans also saw me as more than just a faceoff guy.
Everyone knows All-Star games don’t technically count for anything, but this one did a little for me. I had a fun side bet going with Matt Rambo, who was the captain for the other all-star team. We both play together in the NLL for the Philadelphia Wings and we’re set to live together this year for the upcoming indoor season. Not only were we playing for bragging rights, but we bet three months of rent on the game. Let’s just say I was sweating at the end but luckily Team Baptiste came out with a clutch win. It’s going to be a great first three months in Philly.
Week 7: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Denver, Colo.)
PLL Denver weekend. This date had been circled on my calendar since the schedule was first announced. It was after a couple of bye weeks, so I was ecstatic to see my teammates and get this thing (as in our season) back on track. Second, as I mentioned, I played college lacrosse at the University of Denver and I currently still live in Denver. Some of the best memories and relationships I have were made here, and it will always be a special place for me. During my time at Denver, we saw a lot of success–the team went to two Final Fours and we won the National Championship in 2015. Suiting up in this city is nostalgic for me, and I really don’t get to do it that often anymore.
My pregame emotions were a lot to handle. I caught myself getting distracted, thinking about all my friends coming to the game and getting lost in the moment. Once we hit the field I saw–and heard–the crowd cheer. It felt like I was back at DU playing for the Pioneers. Although we weren’t playing at Peter Barton Stadium, it still felt like home, like everything was coming full circle. I was trying to take it all in without losing focus. There was so much anticipation on a personal level, but also for our team. We knew it was starting to be “do or die” when it came to the playoff picture. We needed to play well. My hope was that all the eagerness would mean we’d all explode with energy, and that’s exactly what happened. It was a perfect scenario for me.
We came out firing, started the game with an 8–0 lead. It just felt like we couldn’t miss. We hung on to the lead the whole game. I got to see my coaches from the University of Denver after which might have been the highlight of the whole day. Getting to play in front of the guys that truly made me into the player I am today was really special. I walked up to them on the sideline after the game, gave Coach Tierney a hug and he said, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once and a while.” Those were the exact words he said to me after my first scrimmage as a freshman at the University of Denver.